, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 213-230

Sexual and apomictic development in Hieracium

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Abstract

 Most members of the genus Hieracium are apomictic and set seed without fertilization, but sexual forms also exist. A cytological study was conducted on an apomictic accession of H. aurantiacum (A3.4) and also H. piloselloides (D3) to precisely define the cellular basis for apomixis. The apomictic events were compared with the sexual events in a self-incompatible isolate of H. pilosella (P4). All plants were maintained as vegetatively propagated lines each derived from a single plant. Sexual P4 exhibited characteristic events of polygonum-type embryo sac formation, showed no latent apomitic tendencies, and depended upon fertilization to set seed. In contrast, D3 and A3.4 were autonomous aposporous apomicts, forming both embryo and endosperm spontaneously inside an unreduced embryo sac. The two apomicts exhibited distinct mechanisms, but variation was also observed within each apomictic line. Seeds from apomicts often contained more than one embryo. A degree of developmental instability was also observed amongst germinated seedlings and included variation in meristem and cotyledon number, altered phyllotaxis, callus formation, and seedling fusion. In most cases abnormal seedlings developed into normal plants. Such phenomena were not observed following germination of hybrid seeds derived from crosses between sexual P4 and the apomictic plants. The three plants can now be used in inheritance studies and also to investigate the molecular mechanisms controlling apomixis.

Received: 11 February 1998 / Revision accepted: 23 July 1998